There's one harp player I've rarely mentioned in my many videos who clearly deserves mention. He was one of Nat Riddles's teachers; he took over the blues harmonica teaching chair at the Guitar Study Center after I left it and made a huge impression on the dozens of players who took his class over the following 5-7 years (maybe 10 years). He died in 1999, if I'm not wrong.
His name was Bob Shatkin. Bob worked at the Brooklyn Public Library. He had a huge vocabulary and a distinctive way of talking. He had a bushy grey beard, a tough-guy way of talking, a full head of hair, and great charisma. He was the guy playing harp in Dan Lynch on the very first day I walked in. He was one of a host of great Brooklyn harp players, including Danny Russo (who recorded several Spivey LPs), Marty Fink, Rocky (Savino) Jr., and Bill Dicey (a Brooklyn transplant from Maryland, if I'm not wrong.)
Bob was one of the great historians of the blues harmonica. I'm sure that Kim Field would agree. He was working on a huge manuscript about the subject and used to talk about it from time to time. I don't know what happened to it.
Anyway, here's a google search. Spend a few moments checking out what comes up:
I've got a couple of Spivey LPs on which Bob plays a song or two. He wasn't a great original, as a player. But he had ALL the subtleties. I daresay he's the only guy in the world who could match Joe Filisko and Wade Schuman if you'd sat the three of them in a circle and challenged them to play only weird, hard stuff from before 1940. Bob knew all of the recondite techniques--and he definitely knew what the word "recondite" meant.
He deserves more than he got by way of a place in the big conversation about our instrument and our idiom. Maybe we can accumulate some info and memories here.
Last Edited by on Mar 14, 2009 8:17 PM
As there was not one video or even audio file with blues harp player Bob Shatkin available anywhere, it seemed to me that I could upload this track from the album "New York Really Has the Blues, Vol. 2".
A lot of that background sounds like George Smith who was on one Spivey album as I remember. Bob used to watch you play if you were sitting to make sure you were tapping your foot. He thought that reflected the groove pretty dogmatically. ---------- myspacefacebook
The LP dustcover (see the video) states that Bob Shatkin was taught by a "notorious harp blower" named Willie Shoeshine... It looks like this Willie had some reputation as harmonica player in Brooklyn.
This sort of information always arouses my curiosity, but an internet search doesn't show a thing. Does anyone here knew (something about) this "Willie Shoeshine"?
---------- I'm just a pilgrim on this road, boys
Last Edited by on Dec 30, 2010 12:48 AM
Hi. My name is Howard Raab. I went to high school with Bob Shatkin and remained friends with him through the college years and beyond. That was from the late Fifties into the mid Sixties. We lost touch at that point but re-connected in the mid Seventies when we met at the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. At the time he was pursuing his PHD in library science. I only got to hear him play in public once at a small club in B'klyn and then we lost touch again as I was living in the Catskills. I recently found some photos that I took of him around '63-'64. They're pretty good pics and I'd like to share them. There doesn't seem to be any way to do that on this site so if anyone would like them you may contact me at email@example.com or on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/howard.raab Thank you.